Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three Billboards… centers around Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) whose daughter was raped and murdered seven months prior to when the film takes place. No one has been caught, there are no suspects, and Mildred believes it’s due to police incompetence. So, she decides to rent three billboards outside of town that has only a simple explosive question:

Raped while dying

And still no arrests

How come, Chief Willoughby?

The town, who was on Mildred’s side, swiftly turns against her. The police force, particularly Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), are in an uproar over it. Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) visits the company that owns the billboards and eventually Mildred herself. He reveals, in an attempt to gain Mildred’s sympathy, that he’s dying of pancreatic cancer. Mildred knew this and adds, “They won’t be as effective when you croak.” It’s clear, after this particular exchange, that this isn’t going to be a black-and-white struggle of a woman trying to take on a corrupt police department in a little town out in the middle-of-nowhere.

There’s been a lot of buzz around Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri. Mainly because it picked up Toronto International Film Festival’s biggest award, and that usually translates to major Oscar contention in many categories. When I watched the red-band trailer, I had an idea of what I was in for, but what I got was less than I had hoped. The first two-thirds of this movie are sharp; the careful balancing act of comedy and drama is near-perfect. When the movie hits its last act however, it starts to drag. The humor starts to fade, and the movie begins to spin its wheels.

There’s been a lot of chatter about a possible Oscar win for Frances McDormand’s performance, and while she’s very good, I don’t think this is a performance that will bring in a second Oscar. There are a few scenes where her character’s allowed to show a softer side but the majority of the film is spent showing Mildred spitting righteous fury at anyone that opposes her;  she’s played a similar type of character before (Olive Kitteridge) to much greater effect.  Sam Rockwell, who’s also gotten a lot of good ink for his performance as a racist cop, is also good, but again, from all of the chatter about this film and its performances, I expected a little more than what ended up on-screen.

This a decent movie that didn’t live up to the hype. There was talk that it could win Best Picture, but after actually seeing it, I don’t think it stands a chance.  The performances are solid, but like the film, they’re grasping for something that’s just out of reach.

7.5/10

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